The trademark users of our four return systems RIGK-SYSTEM, RIGK-G-SYSTEM, PAMIRA and RIGK-PICKUP receive climate protection certificates from us in recognition of their active environmental protection and active product responsibility. The basis for this is the ecological balance of these systems. But what exactly does this term mean?
The ecological balance is a procedure using which the environmental effect of products, procedures, services and behaviour is recorded and assessed. The total “life cycle” is analysed with regard to the material and energy consumption as well as emissions of pollutants into water, ground and air – from raw substance extraction via production and use, right up to disposal.
Here we distinguish between two principles: the cross-media observation takes into account all relevant potential damage effects on the environmental media soil, air, water. The material flow-integrated consideration, on the other hand, takes into account all material flows which are connected with the observed system: raw material use and emissions from preliminary and disposal processes, from energy generation and from transports and other processes.
The results of the ecological balance are used for more sustainable production, but also play a role in the assessment of products such as the award of environment labels and symbols or regarding questions related to the Packaging Ordinance.
The basic principles and rules on the execution of ecological balances have been defined in international ISO standards and transferred into the German standards in the DIN EN ISO 14040 and the DIN EN ISO 14044. Accordingly, the ecological balance comprises four elements: the definition of objective and examination framework, the inventory analysis, the estimation of effect and the evaluation. The ISO standards and their methods are continuously developed and updated with the involvement of the Federal Environment Agency.
The material flow analysis is a procedure used to record substance and material flows which are connected with certain products, procedures and services – or even with whole requirement fields such as building and living, mobility or nutrition. In contrast to the ecological balance, the material flow analysis is not internationally standardised. For this reason, numerous methods exist which can be very different depending on the query, technical interest and examination system.
How do material flow analyses differ from ecological balances? The delimitation is not always clear due to the similarity of the recording methods. To put it simply, material flow analyses focus more on the quantities and paths taken by the substance, material and energy flows within a system. Ecological balances, on the other hand, also observe and assess the environmental effects of the substance, material and energy flows.